In their age and condition, they were supposed to be getting the tender care and loving attention they need but in a suburban St. Louis nursing home, food ran out, trash piled up, medicine kept missing. And that's all because the secured money that was supposed to go for the residents' needs in the nursing home was spent by the owner on strippers, gambling, pet care, and other luxury things.
Johnnie Mac Sells, 52, pleaded guilty to federal charges for stealing $667,000 from Medicaid. He pleaded guilty on Wednesday to two counts of health care fraud. He could get up to three years in prison when he's sentenced on July 25, plus he needs to pay back the money he stole.
The Benchmark Healthcare, in Festus, was forced to shut down last summer. Authorities found out that bills were unpaid, paychecks bounced, trash piled up and food deliveries stopped.
Misouri health officials in July tried to put Benchmark into emergency receivership. They only backed down when food deliveries resumed. Authorities who paid a follow up visit in August discovered, however, that four residents were not getting medicines they needed for such illnesses as congestive heart failure, epilepsy and schizophrenia because pharmacy bills were left unpaid.The state had to close the nursing home in September and relocated its residents.
Prosecutors on Wednesday shared that for three years starting in 2013, Sells stole a huge part of funds provided by Medicaid for Benchmark residents. He used the nursing home's debit card to pay $185,000 at adult entertainment clubs and $15,000 on pet care, $4,500 at casinos and $12,000 at his country club.
Scott Rosenblum, the lawyer of Sells, told Judge John Ross that his client struggled with drugs and alcohol addiction but that he had bern sober " for some time".
Nothing remains now of the once healthy nursing home empire, Legacy Health Systems, established in 1938 in southeast Missouri by Sells' grandmother, Clara Sells. The business at one point even expanded into a $100 million company with 27 facilities across Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee before its collapse under Sells' mismanagement.
Sells will also stand trial in St. Charles County in June on charges of domestic abuse and sexual misconduct. Prosecutors revealed that he brutally slammed his girlfriend through a glass coffee table and exposed his genitals to her 12-year-old son. Sells even denied the charges to a media interview.